Pumpkin Rot: The November Tragedy

Pumpkin rot: It happens every year, and it's always sad. And gross.  (Photo courtesy of Orbitgal on
Pumpkin rot: It happens every year, and it's always sad. And gross. (Photo courtesy of Orbitgal on
I carved a jack-o-lantern this year. It was both elegant and understated, festive and expressive, a true tribute to the holiday we call Halloween. I would have replaced my own head with this carved pumpkin, were it necessary.

I carved this work of art only the day before Halloween, and left it at my mother’s house. I like to think of it as a gift, even though my mom bought the pumpkin. Come to think of it, I should have tried to sell it back to her. Anyway, I left, and the pumpkin stayed.

Early last week my mom left on a road trip (where to, I have no idea - she’s like the wind). She left my jack-o-lantern sitting in the kitchen, no doubt hesitant to throw out such a wonderful gift from her son.

Six days later, however, when I came back to water the plants and to check if the cat was still alive, the pumpkin was no longer the object of beauty it had been. It was saggy and blotchy, rubbery and slick. Its once bright eyes were blocked with black mold, and downy white mold feathered out from between its jack-o-lips. When I poked it, sticky pumpkin juice drooled out of its mouth, and spores puffed from its eyes. I hate to use the word for any of my creations, but it was gross.fig. 2: A JGordon original. Prints for sale soon.
fig. 2: A JGordon original. Prints for sale soon.

Being the good son that I am, I decided that I would take care the vegetable abomination myself (I’ll bill my mom for it when she gets back). The job required a shovel, because it was a little too, oh, fally-aparty to pick up with my bare hands, but, without too much trouble, I was able to bring my sad jack-o-lantern to the final resting place of all good pumpkins: the woods behind the house.

The whole situation was certainly rife with potential science projects on organic decomposition and fungi, but I was too focused on getting the thing out of the kitchen to think about it at the time (and, later, I was too focused on how fun it is to lob shovelfuls of moldy pumpkin at trees). Fortunately, I’m not the first person to become interested in the disaster that is a November 10th jack-o-lantern.

Here we have a science project that determines the best ways to keep your jack-o-lantern fresh and looking sharp, from soaking it in bleach to coating it with Vaseline. It’s complete with photos of the pumpkins at various stages of decay – very nice. There are some other interesting projects on the site as well, but some of them are not entirely family friendly, so the delicate among you might want to proceed with some caution. I’m sure you would anyway.

And this site features a do-it-yourself pumpkin mold project for any children who feel like the weekend is too long to spend away from science class.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Jean2's picture
Jean2 says:

I wish my room mate would throw her decaying pumpkins away. And btw, its a fruit not a veggie, j-go.

posted on Thu, 11/15/2007 - 7:54pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I hear that. Just tip them off the balcony.

Not a vegetable, eh? I can't believe that. I mean, if it's a fruit, shouldn't you be able to make pie out of it?


posted on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 6:56pm
Jean's picture
Jean says:

How did you know I even had a balcony... Creep. Too late, they have already been tipped off the balcony and desecrated our otherwise pristine courtyard.

I hear there is such a thing as a pumpkin lasagna.... And I can't say a peach lasagna sounds appetizing. Therefore Pumpkin is neither a fruit or a vegetable. I think the FDA or whoever is in charge of the fruit/veggie classification needs to seriously rethink their purpose on this earth.

posted on Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:11pm
sandy09's picture
sandy09 says:

0h thats sweet to try to make a gift for your mom!! its sad it got saggy!=(

posted on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 5:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

We bought pumpkins and started the science fair project early with the teacher permission. It has been a wonderful experience. We have turned tragedy into science.

posted on Fri, 11/25/2011 - 11:12pm

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